A. Lozovsky

The Labor Movement

Our Fight for Factory Councils

(12 July 1923)

From International Press Correspondence, Vol. 23 No. 50 [29], 12 July 1923, pp. 515–516.
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Factory Councils are at once a creation and an instrument of the revolution. If we follow the history of the factory councils movement, we see that its development has a general connection with the course taken by the revolutionary movement. When the wave of revolution ebbs, the importance of the factory councils decreases accordingly. It is only necessary to consider the rise and fall of the factory councils movement in England, the history of the factory councils in Czecho-Slovakia and in Austria, the springing up, the subsequent decline, and the present revival of the factory councils movement in Germany, and the connection is clearly discernible between this working class organization and the degree of acuteness of the general class struggle. During the course of the last two years the principal question raised by the factory councils, the question of workers control, has everywhere retired into the background, except in Germany. The offensive of the capitalists, and the necessity of directing the attention of the masses to the defence of their old positions, have caused the slogan of workers’ control to remain in abeyance. Instead of directly attacking the capitalist system, we have had to confine ourselves to defensive measures. To a certain extent, this applies even to Germany, although here the revolutionary forces are steadily increasing in strength.

At the present time, there are ample signs that the period of weariness and passivity undergone by the working class is now at an end. In all countries, renewed activity may be observed among the masses. The brutality of the leaders of the bourgeoisie greatly contributes to enhance the class consciousness of the workers, but the more the working class seizes the initiative, the more decisive becomes the question of workers control. It is, however, useless to discuss workers control until organizations are created capable of exercising it.

The approaching period, in which the increased activity of the masses will play a great part, must bring about the revolutionizing of the factory councils where these already exist, and the formation of such councils where they are lacking. The formation and capturing of factory councils is one of the chief tasks of the Communist Parties, it is superfluous to discuss in detail the role of the factory councils in relation to the class struggle as a whole, for the congresses of the Communist International have already dealt with this question. It is, however, necessary to draw attention to one point.

There exists a certain trend of opinion which maintains that all energies can be absorbed by the factory councils, and that even the trade unions can be replaced by these. There is no doubt but that, in the future, the factory council will be the foundation upon which the trade unions are built. In this respect, the lessons to be learnt from the Russian trade union movement are very important. Until the October Revolution the factory councils movement ran parallel with the trade union movement In many places the factory councils contended with the trade unions for precedence. But since 1918, this dissension has ceased. All trade unions have been reconstructed on the basis of the factory council, and the unity of the Russian trade union movement has been established. We believe that the trade union movement throughout the world has to tread this path. The tendency to substitute the factory councils for the trade unions it therefore extremely dangerous. It will only be possible for us to reconstruct the trade unions on a new principle when we have conquered them. Our action for the winning of the trade unions must therefore be carried on more energetically than ever. The strengthening of the power of the factory councils is also the best means of preserving the unity of the trade union movement. The slogan of control of production by the factory councils must be raised in every country. If we consider the course taken by the labor movement in Germany during the last few months, we see the extraordinary significance again being attained by the factory councils. This action must be continued. In every workshop and factory these councils must serve to strengthen the working class. Reformism is destroyed the moment we have won the factory councils. For reformism will then only have the trade union apparatus, but without the working masses. The conquest of the factory councils is, at the same time, the indispensable premise for the revolutionary training of the trade unions, for only that trade union is a powerful trade union, which possesses a direct support in every shop and factory. For these reasons the struggle for the factory councils occupies a most important place in the violent conflict raging between reformism and communism along the whole world from of the labor movement.

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